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There are a lot of fans out there who believe that Tim Tebow may be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I’m serious.
What if they’re right?
The idea of Tebow being the Messiah was already out there when the inexperienced Denver Broncos quarterback began winning for his team in the fourth quarter. Before anyone knew it, the football phenomenon — who openly prayed on the field — had led the team to win six out of seven games. It was only last weekend that the Broncos finally lost to the New England Patriots. Even so, Tebow had scored a touchdown in the first quarter.
People are wearing jerseys with his number and “Jesus” on the back. They are calling him “The Chosen One.” They say that if Christ is to return to Earth, a well known sports figure might be the perfect incarnation. Not to mention that Tebow himself is a Christlike figure in his morals, values, and the way he lives his everyday life. Son of missionaries, he says he is a virgin. He and his parents started an orphanage in the Philippines, which he visits frequently.
His pastor, Wayne Hanson of Summit Church outside Denver, said the Broncos are winning because of God. “It’s not luck,” said Hanson. “Luck isn’t winning six games in a row. It’s favor. God’s favor. … God has blessed his hard work.”
In a totally unofficial survey, TMZ readers were asked who was a more influential Christian: the pope or Tebow. The result? Pope 55, Tebow 45.
To “Tebow” has become a verb. You kneel, place an elbow on one bended knee, head in hand. It has become de rigueur in many football stadiums around the country, as well as a popular meme on Facebook. Three Long Island students were recently suspended for Tebowing in the halls of their high school.
Tebow, as was Jesus Christ, has been teased, criticized and mocked unmercifully for his public displays of faith, which included in college, writing the numbers of Bible verses in his eye black.
Last weekend, in a skit that went viral, Saturday Night Live portrayed Jesus coming to the Broncos’ locker room dressed in white robes and advising Tebow to “take it down a notch.” Jesus goes on to complain that “I’m doing all the work here” and suggests, when Tebow says he reads the Bible before every game, that he should “try reading the playbook instead.”
This outraged evangelist Pat Robertson, who called the skit “part of the anti-Christian bigotry in this country” and said Tebow “ought to be applauded” for demonstrating his faith when Americans are “losing our moral compass.”
But political commentator Charles P. Pierce, writing on the sports site Grantland, responded, “If religion comes into the public square, it is as vulnerable as any other human institution to be pelted with produce.”
A former Broncos’ quarterback, Jake Plummer, recently said Tebow was “a winner,” but “I just would rather not have to hear” him praise God every time he makes a play.
Conservative commentator Bill Bennett came to Tebow’s defense: “We shouldn’t make fun of our good men. … Despite what his critics say, he should not stop what he is doing.”
So how about those Messiah speculations? Totally preposterous?
I consulted three leading Biblical scholars about the idea of a Second Coming. Bart Ehrman, author and professor at the University of North Carolina, says that Tebow is totally unlike Jesus. The prevailing academic view, Ehrman said, is that “Jesus was an unknown, humble Jewish preacher from the backwater with a small following who got in trouble with the law.”
“Jesus was not famous. He was not muscular. Tim Tebow is more of a Mel Gibson type of Jesus. You beat him and he gets up and takes more.”
For biblical scholar and Christian Dominic Crossan, the whole idea that Tebow might be Jesus is very close to what the Bible calls superstition. If people want to believe it, or for that matter, if they see an image of the Virgin Mary in the clouds, that’s up to them.
Crossan asks if “the first time Tebow falls and breaks his leg, or when the Broncos lose, will it be because he is being punished by God?” That’s the logical conclusion if we attribute his successes to God.
His big problem with the idea of a Second Coming is that some people think the “first time Jesus came was a failure. … People want Jesus to come back and kick butt. … but Jesus was a lamb, insisting on justice to the point of death.” Since he was crucified and didn’t relieve his people of the oppression of the Romans, now “he has to come back to do it properly. He has to come back on a white stallion.”
Or as a football player?
If there were a “real Second Coming,” Crossan said, “there would be blood up to the thighs of horses for 200 miles. That’s not innocent. That’s the dark underbelly of the smiling face of expectations.
“You don’t want to lay on [Tebow] all of the “Left Behind” nonsense. He’s trying to be is a decent Christian.”
Like Jesus, Tebow certainly has taken his share of ridicule. But what about pain?
Jacques Berlinerblau, a biblical scholar at Georgetown University and a rabid football fan, said the pain is coming. “Football is a brutal sport. If there is any sport out there that will humanize a Messiah fast, it’s football. You’re going to see him blitzed, sacked and concussed. The next step in the Tebow love affair is to watch the degradation that quarterbacks undergo. Football operates according to secular laws. No sport is crueler to the image of God than football. It disabuses you of any notion of the divine. Tebow is going to get pulverized. Then what?”
I interviewed Tim Tebow early this year when his book “Through My Eyes,” first came out.
Football, he said, “is all about winning and losing,” but it’s still “part of God’s plan.” He said he plays “to honor God. But I’m very competitive. You can play to win and still have high character, integrity. You treat others the way you want to be treated.” He prays that if he wins he will be “humble” and that if he loses he will be able “to give it to Him.”
All the attention is “not a big deal” to him, he said. “It helps me work harder.”
If he plays badly, he prays, “God, I thought you were going to help me. I’m trying to do the right thing.”
Some could see that as his version of “why hast thou forsaken me?”
When asked recently how he felt about people wearing Jesus T-shirts with his number, his answer was typically Tebow.
“I don’t know what to think about that, because I don’t know where people’s hearts are. It’s important to not judge without knowing their hearts. If their heart is to love the Lord, then it’s a good thing. Only God can judge because only God knows what’s truly in a person’s heart.”